The best family in the world

Culture. Culture culture culture. Italian culture.. where to start. Haven't a clue. I guess I should start by saying that I kind of wanted to write about more than just my days in this one... So here's a little insight on italian culture. I'm just going to flat out say it, italians are very proud people. They're really self concious, proud people. . A italian friend commented on a american friend of mine saying "SOS diet" on her wall. Now any american would be like, WTF is your problem are you calling me fat I am going to kick your ass. However, this was followed by the guy who said it explaining that he didn't mean to be offensive, but that when my friend went back to the United States he wanted her to be beautiful so that people would think that Italians were beautiful. Now, I don't really know anyone who would ever derive that from that kind of statement.. but that's how italians are. Almost ALL italians!! It is so different and .... experiencing this culture is just like WOW. It's like you can't believe what some people say because it's so direct and unforgiving but they don't mean it as mean! They don't even want to hurt your feelings... they just want you to look good so that they as a country look good. I also talked to on of my friend's parents because I wanted to get opinions on what Italians think of their culture... I asked her dad what he liked most about Italy and got a really unclear answer that I didn't understand (like he said it was beautiful... and some other stuff but there was a lot of uncertainty). Then I asked him what he least liked about Italy and he only had one answer, italians. As in the people. It's like this country is full of people who 1)love their country but also 2) are ashamed of the people living here as well. I live in the north, and one of the first things that my family explained to me is that there are almost two different Italys. (Italies? No lo so :P) There's the north, which ends at about Rome, and then there is the south. Everyone says that the north and the south really don't like each other. The south says that the north is full of people who work too much and don't know how to have fun, and the north says that the south is full of people who never work because they are lazy and just sit around all day. However, the north reallllyyy doesn't like the south, but when I talk to my intercultura friends who are staying in the south they say that the south doesn't really even have a problem with the north. When I said this to my family they came down with one reason.. money (why is everything always about the money?) I guess that the north (since they work more) ends up giving money to the south in a way? And they don't like it because they don't think that the south has earned it.. it's all very complex but I think it's really sad that they believe their country is so divided. I love Italy, above ALL the italians... so I don't know. I am very lucky to be blessed with an amazing city, and amazing family, and absolutely wonderful friends. I know many people who did not get this lucky and I don't know.. every experience is different? But sometimes when I hear about my friend's family problems and such I feel terrible because I do know what that's like, I lived it for 3 months.. and just now it's like there's a fit. I think the more you love something the more you want to be... like that. Tipo, I am absolutely innamorata with Italia.. and that just makes me want to learn the language more, makes me want to have more italian fashion... want's to make me lose weight because they are... obsessed with being thin here, like that's just how it is. That is their culture. The place that believes that they have the best food in the world wants you to eat eat eat it but not gain weight.
MUSIC - Italian teens really love this thing called house music. Like, they're OBSESSED with it. House is the type of music they play at discos... so it's kind of like techno but less lame. It's just pumped up electro dance music... well that's their culture music. No joke, forget about italian swooners or whatever there is no one serenading you here... but they love house. :P
Fashion - For the most part, Milan has AMAZING fashion. However there seems to be a trend of MICHELAN MAN PUFFY JACKETS. No joke, it's basically a plague. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to see the michelan man puffy jacket trenchcoat. It's a pretty killer sight :D Other than that... all the girls wear skinny jeans. You will see a rare person wearing flare pants. Even on the subway, which is where you see the most freaking variety of people... THEY ARE ALL slim cut jeans. Luckily, I decided to come with one pair! Hahah. Boots are common.. but unlike America only guys wear skate shoes, and guys only wear skate shoes sometimes. Girls wear low sneakers... like keds or something I dont know but they're like little shoes :P haha Unless it's the weekend or a party... then it's always heels. Other than that they dress nice for everything... not many a person wears sweatpants and things like that to school. Guys... when I was reading blogs of people in Italy when I was in America they all said that guys dressed really gay, like tight tight jeans and stuff, the same as girls. However, in Milan I have only seen a few guys wear skinny jeans.. they wear normal clothes like hoodies, t-shirts, button up shirts, pants, there's some gangster pants, there's some skinny jeans.... But no one has their boxers hanging out because they don't wear boxers... okay yea. I think that people here just tend to dress a bit nicer for normal everyday things... like in America we say oh well i'm not getting dressed up to go to the grocery store.. well they get dressed up to go to the grocery store here. Think that has to do with the whole "proud people" thing. Neeext.
Allora... enough of that and now on to Natale!!!
Natale is Christmas... and they're big on Christmas. However.. I have to say I was expecting very different. I think we all were... Christmas here is super different! At home, christmas is a big family day that you would be reaaaaalllly lucky to get out of and go play with your friends but it is most likely not going to happen because it is FAMILY TIME. Alllora for christmas here, we all woke up at about 10 or so and opened presents... or presented each other presents because we had gone shopping for them the day before (my brothers don't like suprises? I guess... so what they do is their parents take them shopping and they get to pick out what they want, pretty sweet deal). For christmas i got a really cute dress from my brothers, a book in italian (yeaaaaahhh) a journal, and a Swarvoski crystal necklace from my host parents. They are pretty much my favorite people ever. I gave my host parents wine, and then also joined in with my brothers and we all bought them a new keyboard for the computer and a really nice pair of motorcycle gloves for the dad. I wanted to get my brothers something cool and suprising, but shopping for guys is FREAKING HARD. Too hard. So I got them soccer balls haha. After we opened presents we had lunch... which also wasn't as big as deal as I thought it would be... I know that other exchange students had different meal experiences haha. First we had these appetizer things that were like puff pastry.. shrimp with lots of goo that were really pretty but I declined eating because my family knows I don't like mayonaise .. and I am open to new experiences I mean I ate pate (liver) before I knew what it was haha... allora after that we had raviolinni.. which are really little ravioli in broth and they were good.. then everyone had meat like there must have been 3 pounds of pate. I politely declined. There was a lot of prosciutto and stuff like that.. and then we had Pandoro and Panettone for dessert. Pandoro is like the delicious, free of disgusting dried fruit version of panettone. Panettone is fruitcake. Fruitcake is the same all around the world. Fruit cakey and non appealing. After lunch (which was just my family and my dad's grandma), my brothers went out to hang out with their friends... I was kind of unaware that this was allowed aha so I pretty much sat around all day.. I also went on a walk from Duomo to my house... which was cool because it is actually not that far and it was a really pretty day with lots of sun. I felt kind of homesick on this day, but I'm guessing thats normal. That night, I thought that we (Lorenzo, Riccardo and I) were going out for drinks with their cousins.. turns out everyone goes out for drinks on christmas night! There was about 40 people... then they played soccer until 3 in the morning when we went home. It was cool. I enjoy these new traditions.. ha. The rest of break was fun... my friend Mollie from Monza slept over... I don't really remember doing anything too amazing but yea it was fun. Then... BUON CAPODANNO! Today is New Years... which means BIGGGG party here. Last night I went to a place in the mountains called Binago with my friends from school... my friend Federica has a house there and her parents let us use it for our new years party whooo!!!! Popping champagne.... setting off fireworks.. going to bed at 5 am... it was quite a fun night :) I'm just saying, when the italians say they are going to do the shopping for alcohol.. they really do it, something like 200 dollars worth. Haha first my friend's dad came to get all of us (there was like 20 of us) from the train station... and there was a BUNCH of wine in these plastic bags and we were walking to Fede's house when two bottles accidentally dropped and broke... her dad started laughing at us. Why is this country so chill. Just describing the festivities too... not trying to endorse underage drinking or anything but that is what they do here. Except when we did the shake up champagne and spray it on all your friends thing my hair got a big shower and now it is really sticky and stuff from champagne STILL. When we got to the house Fede's mom cooked dinner for us all... they eat lentils on new years for good luck? Ok :) haha also red underwear. Red underwear is a must have. It is so much of a must have that when I said I wasn't wearing any because I didn't know about the traditions, a friend from school pulled out a red pair of underwear and threw them at me saying I knew extra's would come in handy! Carinissimaaa hahah. Anyway, I am soooo tired.. I slept 3 hours today, and tomorrow I will be going to France with my family for a week to ski, and then I will come back and write about it. However, I hope everyone had a fantastic new year and that this year will be the best yet.. it already has been for me and we've still got 6 months to go! By the way, I'm never coming home. Sorry mom and dad. :)

AUGURI, HAPPY 2010!!!!
Allora, I have much to say
1st of all, I hate writing. ALRIGHT, now into the good stuff.

Yesterday me and my friend Tonje went tanning for the first time here in Italy. Tonje tans a lot (she's from Norway) and I went a little back home too. We were both lookin' very similar to dead fish so we decided it was time to hit up a solarium. When we got there, the lady said "Viso?" and we assumed this was a tanning bed so we said yes, 2. Apparently Viso is when you sit in a chair and just have your face tanned. Nice. These were some odd looking contraptions that we had never seen before. After that failure, the lady asked us again what we wanted, and we said tipo letto? Like a bed? Well apparently here they don't have beds. They have these things literally translated into "showers" which is were you stand up in this like little box and have to raise your arms above your head for however long you go. It's TIRING. That was new. I also think I got sunburnt. Wonderful.
This was the END of yesterday. This blog post is going to be in rewinnnddd!!!!!

So earlier that day (Friday), my school had a manifestazione again. This time, I WENT for the FIRST TIME! And now I can officially say that manifestazione are the best things ever. First they set off all these smoke bombs outside my school, but other kids still went in (like my class, because they had a history test. Good thing I don't understand history). Then, what seemed like a small amount of people followed this big banner that these guys were holding and we walked to the metro stop and then more and more people joined, and we were crowding the streets and stopping traffic and all, pretty awesome. Every once in a while they'd set off these big sparklers. When we reached the metro, about like 200 or so of us now idk probably more like 400 or something, we all jumped over the metro things. It was so coool because there was like hundreds of kids jumping over the metro. Then we all got on a train and went to this place called Cairoli... where I met my friend MOLLY from America :) For about two hours we walked around in the streets following this big truck that had all this badass music, like a moving truck or something, and alll these people like TONS of people were walking and protesting. They also have some lovely, positive cheers, like - There is a disease in my city that can't be cleaned out, its called the police BASTARDI. Then they yell at everyone who is looking out their windows at the manifestazione and yell come down with us stop being lazy come down with us. It was a magical very fun day, which ended in Duomo. Mollie and I went to get some deeliciouss italian hot chocolate pudding like buisness :)
Before friday was thursday, the only day i was in school this week besides saturday. Nothing happened on thursday. Obviously it was terrible because I actually had to LEARN. (Just kidding it was allright).
Allora, the 4th of december (Friday) to the 9th (wednesday)
There was a holiday in Italy from the 4th - the 8th of December, called Sant Ambrogio. This meant nooo school for 4 whole days! Enrico, a friend of my old family (explained a little down) invited me to go to Bormio (a town near the border of Switzerland) with him and his aunt/uncle and their wonderfully YOUNG four children. Did you know that young children frequently love to scream and express their joy as loudly as they can at 7 am? I sure didn't... However Bormio was beautiful, snowboarding (which I haven't done in forever) was a looot of fun but I'm also ridiculously sore from falling on my ass. It snowed on the second day I was there but they don't groom the slopes? This was cool because I really like fresh snow that's not groomed but it is also more difficult.. alloraaaa
In Bormio I discovered a new found passion for WINE. Legit.
One day, instead of skiing we went to a place REALLY near Switzerland called Livigno. Livigno is basically my dream town, because of one reason. The whole town is like a HUGE DUTY FREE STORE! Meaning it has no tax (the whole town). Meaning perfume, make up, clothes, designer sunglasses, vodka, cigarettes, and chocolate are VERY CHEAPPP. I bought the family I was staying with a bottle of wine as a thank you and procceded to throw away the rest of my money on a ridiculous amount of perfume. Successful. Tolberone bars were 1 euro too. Stocked up on chocolate. Just to give you an idea. The rest of Bormio was really fun, I met up with a couple of classmates who I found out were staying there and we walked around the (tiny) town for a little, got lunch, and then I had to leave... it was reallly realllly small. Like one of those cute cobblestone towns that you see in the 1800's or whatever. I liked it very much :)
On Tuesday night we drove to Lecco, where we stayed at Enrico's grandfathers house, which is HUGE and has the nicest view of Lake Como ever... it was sooo beautiful. I liked it there because you could see the stars, and I was always wondering why I can't see the stars in Milan. Then someone told me there was too much pollution. That's fantastic. Anyway it was nice to see the stars for once because I really missed them. From stars... to the beginning of the vacation, Sant' Ambrogio... to switching families.
Yep, I thought I might be one of the few NOT switching families, but it actually happened.
Hard to believe, huh?
Even harder to believe is the fact that I did not choose to switch families, the family chose that they couldn't host anymore.
I appreciate the old family I was with, because I know it is hard to have an exchange student (hello, we've had two). However, I also think that when you sign up for something as big as having someone from a different country live in your house for a year, there are a few important things you need to do
1) Make sure your whole family actually WANTS an exchange student. Or at least doesn't mind having one. If you have a son or daughter that actually didn't/doesn't want an exchange student... LISTEN TO THEM. YOU ARE DOING THE EXCHANGE STUDENT A BIG. BIG. FAVOR.
2) Flexibility is VERY important
4) Don't give up. Either have one for a year, or don't have one at all.

This being said, there were some unsolvable difficulties in the other family that resulted in me staying with the AFS housing advisor now, Claudia and her family. However I loveeee my new family which is good as well :) They have hosted two times before, and that makes me feel a lot more comfortable because they aren't suprised by a lot of stuff and know what the very different life of an exchange student is like. In a way I feel luckier than some exchange students. Im sure that if I had gotten put with a successful family the first time then I would feel different, but still, switching families is not something that everyone gets to do and its a completely new, more rare exchange experience. OH WELLLLL because the main thing now is that this family is completely freaking awesome and I basically love them. I still go to the same school, but now live in a bigger house and have my own room :D This is really, realllllly nice. My mom works for intercultura, my dad has a job that he wears a suit to, and I have two brothers. One actually just came back from studying in australia today (its tuesday the 15th... these posts take a long time to write) and he's 21, the other is 18 and studies in a school called Bottoni or something. The schools that all start with B are so easy to get mixed up because there is literally like a hundred of them... Everyone loves to talk and they all really love each other too which is kind of ridiculously adorable.
Alloraaaaa..... new other things. I went to Brescia this sunday for Santa Lucia festival.... it was fun.. I was an angel, we also had reindeers/bears, elves, santa clauses, and like... farmers. I don't know what they were exactly but it was legit. The only not legit part was that we walked around singing christmas carols... for 6 hours straight in the FREEZING COLD. Brescia is very pretty. We got hot chocolate. The end.

- I'm going skiing in France. Excellent family switching timing if I do say so myself.
- Everyone here thinks Amanda Knox is really, really, really guilty.
- Berluscconi got punched in the face.. with a statue... they really don't like him here
- Finals suck. All over the world, finals suck.
- I actually don't know anyone with a real tree.. they are all made out of plastic.. hahah I was so excited like "We're getting a tree? Really?!" - Yea, help me come unpack it from this box! haha
- Christmas = Natale
- I forgot my first english word today and I still can't remember it. It's irritating me.
- I hate italian mail. One of the very few things I hate. Because even when you expedite something, it will still take a month to arrive.
- It snowed for ten minutes. Best ten minutes EVER.
baci baci baci :) Kisses for all!
A dopo, Katie
I can absolutely not think of anything to talk about at the moment! More updates later.. when something interesting happens..
Ciaoo :)

Ohhhh mio dio. Blogs are getting harder and harder to write, because most of the time I just want to keep living and not keep a record of it but I'm sticking it thru because 1) i need an english credit 2) i'm sure I'll be happier when I'm done. Also, I loved reading the blogs of people that were in Italy while I was waiting to go to Italy so if you are preparing to go... I hope you enjoy :)
So on Wednesday I had the fannnntastic opportunity to go to a Lily Allen Concert. It was completely legit. Alcatraz, the place where the concerto was held, is a realllly big dance hall/disco/bar place. I went with Mollie (from USA), Tonje (Norway), and Vale (an AFS advisor from Monza). It was AWESOME!!!! She was about 45 minutes late on the stage, and I couldn't feel my feet, but other than that it was really cool. We were right up front.. it was also really funny because while she was singing she started smoking. And I don't know maybe it's just me but I've never really heard of someone who earns a living depending on their voice smoking, but apparently that works well... haha. Here are some picturesss of that.

Soooo.... this last weekend was Halloween. Now, everyone I talked to said Halloween in Italy was not a big deal. They obviously don't know what Halloween in Alaska is like. My school friends and I decided to go to a hugeee disco called Limelight, but it was less of a disco and more of a rave when we got there. There were SO MANY PEOPLE. It everybody pushing to get thru the door, and even though we had a table we waited an hour and a half in a mosh pit type of line to get in. Not only is Halloween a big deal for the discos in general the DJ at Limelight was Christian Marchi, who you may know as singing Love, Sex, American Express (house music haha) so that made it even MORE popular. Everyone was either dressed hella funky for Halloween or super nice because Limelight has a dress code, either way it was completely crazy but soooo much fun. I'll try to link in a movie one of my friends took. Before the disco was so much fun, my friend Christina, Selene, and I went to Federica's house to get ready. We all looked quite great before we got to the disco, those things are REALLY FREAKING HOT. Here's a video of it just to give you a small idea of how many people were there.

This was ONE PART.
It was definetly a great Halloween though :D
It was also my first three day weekend! No school on Saturday (Halloween), Sunday (Normal), and Monday (All Saint's Day). I really really really LOVE no school. Also, yesterday (Tuesday) was my host sister's 16th birthday! As a special gift, my host mom got us tickets to one of the biggest games in Milan, AC Milan vs. Real Madrid. That was soooo much fun! Calcio, soccer is called. Before I came I thought it was pronounced cal e co. Apparently it is pronounced Calcho. Which explains why nobody knew what I was talking about. I thought it was going to be a bit more different than it actually was... First we walked in and found our seats. Then we got kicked out of our seats because apparently they were the wrong ones. Then we found new seats! Ha. Everyone cheered and screamed when the soccer players came out, but when the game started everybody sat down, kind of like they were at a classical concert or watching theater or something! I thought that people would be like, jumping and cheering for their team but it was sooo different it was almost quiet-ish. The only time people got up and got really excited was when a goal was being made or about to be made... then everyone went crazyyy. The game tied 1-1 :( but it was really cool to go and I can see that italians really love their soccer. It's also kind of unfair because I have not met a single italian that cannot kick a ball right. Even though the girls don't play soccer or whatever, they are all good at kicking the ball! All italians are good at soccer WHERE IS THE JUSTICE. Anywhooooo one thing that a lot of italians aren't the greatest at is running... more on that. Today I did a school run, called campus campestra or something I don't know but a lot of people from my school did it. It was a 2 kilometer (little over a mile) run in a park.. not very long huh? Wroooong. First, apparently this is a REALLY long distance. Also, right before the race everyone finishes their cigarettes and then goes and gets in line to run. After the race, everyone is hacking and coughing and some people are crying because it was so hard. I love it though it is kind of hilarious :P Italy is also really beautiful in autumn. I've never seen real autumn before because all the trees we have in Alaska are spruce? So leaves never fall... because we don't have any.. here the leaves are always falling and it's windy and wonderful and bellissima always and I quite love this city.

It's also really hard to upload a lot of photos on here, so if you have a facebook add me @ Katie Riley.
Ciao.... until next time!
So... I've just returned from Aprica (well I actually returned on Sunday but this blog is a nuisance sometimes ;). Aprica was where all the intercultura students in the Lombardy region went for their one month orientation... it was a LOT of fun and it was also SOOOO great to see all my friends and all these new people. There were 55 kids there and like 10 volunteers, the volunteers (most of them) are SO cool and I love the really nice ones (most of them haha). It was great, we got to talk about our families, how school was going, how italian was going, ect ect... In my opinion Intercultura is just really excellent they try so hard to make sure you're having a good time (I disagree with somethings but then again, who doesn't), all in all I think it is Great program and the people that work for them are mega sweet! The mountains were so beautiful, it reminded me of home because it was sooo cold and then having the sun rise over the mountains everyday... it looked just like Sitka in a way. Except the part where it wasn't an island, hhaa. We played a bunch of very weird games at camp... like italians are really in touch with kissing? It was like every single game was about/involved kissing. This was new... I don't know if it was just weird for americans or others too but yea, AWKWARD. Haha oh well. We also learned a song from the 70's called Fatti Mandare dalla Mama... one of those awesome songs that just gets stuck in your head and never leaves! I like it though because now when some one asks me something with the word bisogno in it i'm like NEED? NEED WHAT? aha :P There was also a mandatory talent show... this was hard because at first Eryn, Iris and I decided we were going to something from Hannah Montana to capture the american spirit, but then we got bored and couldn't think of anything to do except make fun of Miley Cyrus so then we decided to write a rap. Turns out Erin is the only one who can rap at all and our whole rap was just really stupid and... like mean hahaha. Plus the main word it centered on was bitch... don't really think that would have turned out well. It was hilarious though. Finally we decided to teach them the hokey pokey. Success :D
Camp was a lot of fun but I was really happy to come home too... I realize that although my family may be a little difficult at times I really do appreciate them and am very happy to be staying with them. I am also going to a LILY ALLEN concert on the 28th... SOOOOO EXCITED! Hopefully a volunteer from the camp, Valentina, who is really adorable and a self described "american at heart" is coming too :) What else to tell...
1) guys here don't dress nearly as gay as everyone says they do
2) everybody here is REALLY OPEN. Like, about everything. Please don't make me explain this more.
3) I miss my pets... in Aprica we were walking along the side of the road and this adorable little black cat followed us and let us pick him up and hold him and everything and he was SO cute :(
4) My sister's birthday is on November 3rd... the day that me, her, and Lorenzo will be attending my FIRST soccer match which happens to be a HUGE ONE!! AC MILAN VS REAL MADRID! HELL YES!
5) I still love Italy.
6) Italian is still difficile.
7) I have to go walk the dog now
Here's some beautiful photos of a gorrrgeous mountain town

A bunch of AFS kids, my BFF (haha) Iris, and beautiful BEAUTIFUL Aprica :)


Hike thing

So today we went on an AFS excursion sort of thing to hike a mountain in Lecco. It was SO beautiful... the view from the top, unexplainable. Beauty beauty beauty... Italy is sooo full of it. Clear skies, HOT sun (no mi piace), beautiful towns... the towns were nestled in between the mountains! That was super cool to see :) Ale and Andrea came with me, and most of the exchange students also came with their parents and brothers/sisters. I love being together in a group with the exchangers because it just reminds me that we're not all alone all the time... We went to Lecco for a long time... from 9 am till 5 pm! I was sooo tired all day but really happy to go.
New Developments in my life -
- My advisor, Francesca, is AWESOME. She keeps me sane around my family who drives me CRAZY sometimes... she is genuinely a really cool person to be around :D
- I'm gonna kill the dog. Really. She eats my socks... like swallows them and then regurgitates them so they are disgusting and slobbery... she routinely wakes us up at 6:45/7 am by whining and barking... for 20 MINUTES STRAIGHT...
-I hate cleaning. Making my bed everyday... making sure everything in my general vicinity is always clean and tidy... It's not bad? But how is something that is as clean as a hotel supposed to feel like home? Io non capito (i don't understand)
(sorry for the ranting but sometimes you have to GET IT OUT)
- Family here is SOOOOO FREAKING DIFFERENT! It's not like it's a bad different... but its SO EFFIN different. No laying down on the couch... wearing shoes in the house, telling everybody where you go when you leave... One day I went out for a walk, just walked out of the house and started walking.. when my brother stuck his head out the window and was like "WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" and I was like... uh, I don't know.. and he insisted on me telling him where I was going when I honestly DIDN'T know. That just IRRRRKS ME! When I got back my mother talked to me about how "italians are very interested in each other's lives!" I also recognize that I have been brought up completely differently... its just weird having family dinners and having to sit at a table for like, 2 hours. Blerrrrg! I gues every afs'er goes thru family problems at some point... and I know I'm not alone, I just wish there was something about it :/
But not to end on a bad note, here are some AWESOME PICTURES!!!
So I realize I kind of cheated everyone out of a full blog post last time... but I was really homesick/tired. So today is Wednesday! Which would normally be a whooooo humpday! - back home. Here I have the lovely, everpresent SATURDAY SCHOOL! YAY! Blarrrrg. On Friday we're having the manifestation and I'll be sure to write about that but until then I don't think anything too interesting is happening. Sohoho this week we do not have Italian lessons, because the teacher is out. This means that I don't have to go to the duomo after school.. which feels weird. Oh well. Last night me and my sister went out with her friends... I was sooo bored after a ridiculous 6 hour day of school and then nothing at night, so we left about 10 and ended up at Parco Pagano. Parco Pagano is basically the coolest. place. ever. It has a platform of trampolines. Big, huge, awesome trampolines, and all we had to do was jump thru a hole in the fence. This was ammazingggly fun and I was so happy because I haven't jumped on trampolines since back home!! These were wayyyy bouncier though, like the gymnastic ones (they were square too). So trampolines are awesome and I forever love them. Other fun things....
1) Bastardi senza gloria (Inglorious Basterds). Nonna and I went to the english version... well at least I thought it was the english version. And apparently it is, however, the english version also includes a majority of the movie being in french and german with italian subtitles. It made loads of sense, yeah. It was really funny though.
2) Motorcycles. Enough said.
3) School is terrible. I have a feeling that even when I understand it I will not like it, because school is a mean mean mean thing.
4) My italian teacher at school also thinks that I have no friends; thus she held my class back from the bell and told them to be nice to me and help me make friends. Glad my teachers have such confidence in me, HA.

Haven't really got anything else to report, other than the fact that boys here are really really good looking. But I'm sure everybody knew that.
:D Ciao ciao, Katie
I'm going to stop counting weeks because I don't like numbers... but I do like Italy. Oh, do I like Italy. A couple days ago I figured out that cookies for dinner were almost as good as cookies for breakfast... that was COOL. Haha ;) School is going.. like school. Today I found out that I have 6 STRAIGHT HOURS OF LEARNING EVERY TUESDAY. This ceases to be okay with me. Plus, they have parking spaces here, right? Yea. On the sidewalk. Actually outlined in yellow, on the sidewalk. Nice :D So... this evening was my father's birthday back home, but it was also my family's best friends grandfather's birthday. So we went to Lecco! The drive was wonderful... a whole 2 and a half hours in a freaking car because we got lost about 7 times. And when you get lost you can't turn around for like, 5 miles. This resulted in a very.long.car.ride. However, we finally got to the resturant, and I don't really know how to put this experience into words.... it was the WHOLE Noviello family with like 3 aunts, 3 uncles, 5/6 kids, 2 grandparents, Enrico's American parents, and my family. That's a LOT of people. A lot of italian people = a lot of love, practically an insane amount of love. Everyone in that room was so happy to be there, around the rest of their family... It was crazy because never have I ever witnessed anything like that. Ever. Even at my family reunion. I mean, I'm not trying to insinuate that my family back home is messed up and nobody loves each other, but I have never actually witnessed something like an entire room of people that were happy to spend 5 hours together over a meal and not argue about ANYTHING. I am so grateful to be in an environment like this. I understand that not everybody's afs experience is like this and if you get a family that you fit in you are truly lucky.

I have officially lived in Milan for two weeks now... it's crazy because it feels like so much longer... school drags on the same but weekends are fun :). This week in school... I went to school... I can't really describe what I did because it feels like nothing (probably because it is nothing, oh well haha). However, on Thursday there was a sort of AFS meeting/lecture thing in la Duomo, so I got to skip school! YES! When I got there I saw Emma, Iris, Mollie, and a bunch of the other kids that were staying in Milan that I hadn't seen since orientation so that was lots of fun. The lecture was all in italian and it was just a bunch of people (a lot of people weren't in AFS and I have no clue why they were there or where they were from, but then again I didn't even have a clue what the lecture was about either). Anyway, the lecture was actually just like school except for we got up and got snacks from a wicked confusing vending machine in the middle, haha. It was also hilarious because all the AFS kids had to stand up and introduce them selves (Ciao, Mi chiamo katie, sonno americana) and when the mircophone got the american kids and they said sonno americana, everybody started shouting and clapping. That was pretty cool.... until they got to the two kids from Brazil; then everyone went freaking crazy!! Haha. After that Emma and I went to the Duomo to go shopping, of course... I think we went in the same shops about 20 times, they just had different names (at least that's what it felt like after a while). Cool cool cool. On Friday, we had our first italian lesson! All the kids from Milan and close to came, so there's about 13-15 or so kids in the class. That day we just went over basic stuff like time, the alphabet, ect, and it was all explained in english. We have italian lessons three times a week until the middle of November, and then we have them two times a week until January. I really hope that these will be effective.. hahaha. After Italian, we all went out to get gelato (because the lessons are at the duomo). Yum. I really think that the whole ice cream everywhere you go could end up being a problem, but whatever. Not gonna complain. Saturday was school.. what fun.. I don't think I'll ever get used to waking up early but oh well. After school me and my family drove to an outlet mall that was about an hour away from Milan.. and I discovered that I just really don't like outlet malls. It's kind of like you were wishing that they had everything that the real stores had, but for cheaper; it's not. It is just a big place full of clothing that not a lot of people like, haha. I did get a cute pair of shoes, though. They are slightly less high than the other heels I bought and almost started crying after wearing for a half hour. :P Anyway... saturday night me and my mom and Enrico's family and an American teacher person (whoooo go america!) went out to dinner and after Enrico, Marco and I went to a party. Saturday nights are fun fun funnn :) However I was sooo tired when I woke up this morning! Today was AWESOME because I got to go see the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci! I do not have any pictures unfortunatly because I am not skilled in the sneaky picture taking department, and my camera is SO loud!! So I got yelled at. The painting was really cool though, it was in a dark room that was pretty big, and it was painted on a whole wall. HUGE. I really liked that. After we saw the painting we all went to get gelato... YUM (yea I told you its EVERYWHERE). Then, Enrico's parents from America were here visiting for two weeks so an entire group of us went to the Castello again. I've been there three weekends in a row, haha. We went inside the castle this time, where we got to see bunches of artifacts and other old things, and Michaelangelo's final sculpture. He worked on this sculpture till about 4 days before he died, so it is unfinished. Very pretty though. After that I fell asleep while watching soccer... Thennnn the sunday night parties began! So usually there wouldn't be this much activity on a sunday, but my cousin Enrica decided to have her birthday tonight and so did my friend from school named Ale. I went to Enrica's first, which was fun and I got to see another AFS'er that is living near me.. and I felt kind of bad because I had to leave like 20 minutes after I got there... oops! I walked down the street to Ale's house and then we drove to this place called Old Fashion Cafe, it's a BIG happy hour (happy hour is where you pay 10 euros for a drink and get as much food as you want) place with lots of food and drinks and then dancing.. so almost everybody from our class came, which was super cool... and wow when they say casual nice in Italy it kind of means really nice. Dress up for EVERYTHING. This is gonna take some getting used to. So everybody got food from this big huge buffet where everyone was pushing and shoving, cool huh. We also had tickets so we all got delicious sugary drinks. After a while we started dancing... now that was funnnn. I really just kind of adore dancing, and Italy is a great place to be for that. Then it was cake time! It was sososo cool, the staff brought over the cake to our table with two bottles of champagne (yea, that is so the right way to celebrate a birthday). And we even did the shakey thing with the champagne and popped the cork which was AWESOME because never have I ever seen that done in real life, cool stuff :P Her cake was sooo good it was like halfway made of cream puffs which I happen to love, yea, and then the rest was yellow cake. So nice work who ever whipped that up, I agree with your cooking skillz. The rest of the night we danced danced danceeeed it was so fun until like 11:10 because I had to be home at 11:30 so then we left. On the way back we had to stop because we thought we had a flat tire... so I got home about 11:45 from a WICKED FUN Sunday night :P and now I have scuola again! YayyyY! :D
Ciao Ciao

Pictures from top to bottom -
1) My awesome class! 4G
2) The Church right next to where the Last Supper is held
3) Michaelangleo's last statue
4) Frederica, Christina and Me at Ale's birthday
5) Me and a Beautiful Birthday girl!!!
6) My lovely apartment building :)
7) Castello!

Oh yea... so Friday (the 18th) was my 17th birthday. The whole week before that was a mix of booooring scuola, making friends, and seeing il Duomo! So I'll start at the beginning :)

lunedi - first day at school! Not capitalizing the day is gonna be a little difficult... here there is no Lunedi its just lunedi (monday). Scuola was interesting... the first day. I did not understand anything, but I met the principal and the english teacher (who is super funny). The english teacher has a hilarious habit of saying "yes, that's right" to everything anyone says... so I would be stretching my arms during class (another habit that is not allowed here ?!?!) an she would catch me and say AH AH AH! While I am blushing, followed by a "Mi dispiace!" (I'm sorry) followed by, "Yes, that's right!" So... hahaha there are so many things that have culture shocked me here I can't even begin to explain. I appear to be taking Math, Science, English, Philosophy, Religion, Italian, Latin, Art, and Gym (rarely). I go to school at 8:15, usually by bicycle with my cousin Enrica. School the prima settimana (first week) got out at 12:30... but usually we get done at 1:15. There is a break from 10:15-10:30 where students can go to the cafe in the school or outside to smoke. Which apparently they do at school here. This was just a little surprising the first day, haha. My class has 16 kids in it, 3 boys and the rest are girls. They are all very nice! Everyone talks in English to me, or tries to... whic h is quite infuriating when you are trying to learn italian... haha but they are all really nice. Another difference I noticed between Alaska and Italy.. In the class everybody knows each other and is nice to each other.. there are no cliques from what I can see. After school I go home (because I lack the ability to make solid friends quickly) and hang out in my house. The next day I have a delicious breakfast of coffee and cookies... and a peach! The breakfast here really is quite lovely haha. When we were biking to school, Enrica saw that she had some bike grease on the leg of her pants (near the foot, where you don't really notice). Being as it that I bike a lot, I just said oh don't worry you're fine, that happens to me all the time... apparently in Italy that doesn't happen all the time because her reaction was a tad different. She kept saying "this is simply unacceptable.. I have to go home and change..." the only reason we got to school on time is because her brother agreed to bring pants to school for her so she could change. This was the biggest culture shock for me yet... it was just such a different reaction compared to an environment where kids wear sweatpants and pyjamas to school. I also have discovered that whoever made the statement "math is the same in every language" is a freaking liar. Math is super hard... I'm pretty sure we're studying parabolas but past that I am a little lost. Science is a fun subject, the teacher is really nice and tries to explain everything to me as best she can. Science is a mix of chemistry and biology... right now we're studying amino acids. It was pretty crazy to realize that the names of the elements on the periodic table are in a different language. After school I come home and eat lunch with my family... then either stay in (like I did the first couple days) or go out. On Wednesday I even went to mi amica Ale's house for an hour, followed by me biking home and NOT EVEN GETTING LOST! I was pretty excited about this, in case you couldn't tell. So school school school... then along comes FRIDAY! Normally it'd be a TGIF moment, but sadly, we have school on Saturday :'(. However, Friday I got to go to the Duomo (center of milan) with Emma!!! Which would explain the picture above. The Duomo was sooooo big! When we got off the subway I literally was like WOAH THIS THING IS FRICKEN HUGE!- Whilst many a tourist looked at me quite odd. We went shopping and walked around... saw the Louis Vuitton store, Prada store, Salvatore Ferragamo store... all the stores we couldn't go in... the duomo is so big and old that it kind of seems like a seperate city than Milan... a little city inside the city (like the Vatican). Then we got gelato. It was GOOD. There was one called Baccio that I got that means kiss in italian and it tastes like NUTELLA ICE CREAM. Kind of a genius creation. Strawberry is really good also. I had to go at 4, so me and her took the metro until I had to get off. The next day, Saturday, I had school. I disagree with this school on Saturday thing. However it was only 2 hours (first saturday school only) and then my dad Andrea and I went to get me a metro pass downtown. That took about an hour... and it turns out I have to wait 15 days to get it! Lame. After that my sorella and I went to go shoe shopping, and I got a really adorable pair of high heels! And they are high, about 3 inches. This turned out to possibly be the stupidest idea I have ever had. Saturday night Emma and I slept over at a family friends house. Their son had done an exchange in Wisconsin for a year and since it was my birthday we went to the discotecca. Just in case you were wondering, going dancing in 3 inch high heels for 4 hours isn't really that easy. Or fun. But dancing was amazinnggggly fun! It was so so so fun to be out and dancing all night. We went to an old villa near the center of town... it had been redesigned? i guess? As a club... it was awesome though. Also met a ton of people, don't really remember any names, but i've never been good with those :P After this, school dances are going to seem a little lame :/ haha. Anywayyy after that we went back to the house at about 3:30 and fell asleep, Emma went back to Buccinesco while I slept in till 1:30, nice. Sunday we went to the park, which is the closest to nature that you can get here in Milan, so that wfas fun. Now I'm tired, even after drinking tons of coffee. I drink so much coffee that my mom here, Ale, thinks I will have a heart attack (ha ha ha... too much coffee, what a joke). However they don't use milk here, just sugar... different
Anywayy I am tired and have been writing FOREVER so ciao!!
Katie xoxo
Finally... I've arrived in Italia (after about a week straight of traveling)! First was Bumbershoot in Seattle.. an EXCELLENT music festival that was so so so much fun... seeing the Black Eye'd Peas live was awesome! But of course, seeing anyone live would be awesome... those were the first concerts i've ever been to haha. So during that I think I got negative sleep, combined with a nasty cold was a very sick girl (me) ha. I lost my voice the second day... mannn did I sound unattractivo! That was for three days.... and I totally recommend going to everyone because I will most DEFINETLY be returning next year :) After Bumbershoot, my friend Abby (who is also going to Italia, I think i've mentioned that) flew to New York... got in, about three hours later (10 pm) we were showered and ready to see the town in all of its city never sleeps glory! Time's Square was a high point in this adventure. We stayed up till the lovely hour of about 8 am, then slept in till 3, when we remembered we had orientation in an hour. We arrived an hour late, which I consider excellent timing haha. Orientation in New york was pretty fun, although a bit boring, it was great to meet all the people that I had blindly added on facebook in real life! We did orientation stuff... which was kind of just a whole lot of being talked to for a while. Met some super cool people at it tho, and I now miss them all because I am alone in Milano! :P We then flew to Zurich (let's just say it was a pretty okay flight, except for being sick and lack of sleep). The airplane crew were sooo funny! We were the loudest section... and they came by a lot and asked "what are you doing??" haha. After Zurich we flew to Roma... I was SOOO excited to finally have arrived! The first thing I did was get pizza with my friend Emily, we were pretty pleased about this... plus the slice was HUGE. Mmmm italiano pizza = win. So then we took a bus to the orientation... which we were informed would be two days long. Turns out we arrived a day later than everyone else who was already there and had already met each other. Greeaaat. After meeting everyone we had a long long LONNNG night in the hostel... got no sleep :/ but it was fun :P The volunteers were sooo funny! They were very young and amusing... when they showed us what the italian host parents would be like when first meeting us (very huggy and kissy) it was sooo funny. The day after I left with the other Milanese at 10:30... we took a 4 hour train ride to Milano... where we walked into a room FULL OF SCREAMING HOST PARENTS AND SIBLINGS. Being nervous as it was.. this was crazyyyy. I saw my host parents (very exciting) and then we had to introduce ourselves in front of everybody 1 at a time... nice. After that we grabbed my bags and drove to what is now mi casa! We had a delicious dinner.. eggplant lasagna something? I don't know but it was effin' gooood. Gosh i get tired while typing this... arggg okay so my host family is veryyy nice :) the language barrier is super difficult because they are being really understanding and speaking a lot of english but it is STILL difficult! Today (sunday) I went to church this morning... for the second time EVER! Ha. It was okay... couldn't understand anything but I met Francesca's amici (my sister's friends) after.. and two of them go to mi scuola (school). This is bene (good) because then I will at least know someone... i also met a cousin y aunt. The rest of the day was great... bike riding to il parco (the park) and meeting more famiglia amichi (family friends). I also met the son of a family friend that had gone on an exchange to Wisconsin for a year... that was cool because he understood the process and such and it was super good to talk to him. Now I get ready for dinner... It is a tradition for mi famiglia to go out for pizza the night before school starts (which is domani (tomorrow)... ahhh)! Wish me luck... till next time :)
Ciao ciao y buono notte!
xoxo, Katie

Today, I was approached by a homeless man who asked if I had any change. I only had two dimes, but I gave it to him anyway. As I watched him walk away, he put the dimes in an expired parking meter of a strangers car. MMT - makesmethink.com
So... my countdown is down to 10 days (my friend Abby and I are leaving early)!!! Abby (friend from Juneau, also going to Italy) and I are headed down to a Seattle music fest called Bumbershoot... having never been to a "real" concert in my whole life I'm pretty excited. Black Eye'd Peas, Katy Perry, All American Rejects, Michael Franti..it's gonna be pretty awesome. From there we will go to New York to spend a day with a friend in Brooklyn, then the JFK hotel on the 9th!! It's approaching so fast and I haven't even started to pack! Uhoh... school here beings tomorrow and I'm going for a week and a half so I can see some friends before I leave... but I'm hoping time will fly by after that :) I also have been working TONS down at a fish plant at night, packing fish and helping out. It's a mega fun job and I love working at night.. plus the money is nice too :P
Well I'm off to do other things!
Xoxo Katie
So just a couple days ago I got my host family :) Im so happy to be saying that I'm going to MILAN! I come from a town with 8,000 people so living in the second biggest city in Italy is going to be AWESOME! Also, my mother lived in Milan when she went to Italy in college so it will be verycool to be able to see what she did. I have a dad named Andrea (who I first thought was my mom, sorry pappa!), a mamma named Alessandra, and older brother named Lorenzo, and a sister who is younger than me by one year named Francesca. I'm so excited to live there! They have a 130 sq. meter flat in like, the MIDDLE of the city and I am unsure if it gets any luckier than that! They live right next to San Siro, a HELLA famous soccer stadium! They also have a little dog named Isobel which is really cool because I'm going to miss my pets a lot when I leave. All my friends are waiting anxiously for their host families and I didn't even know I had one until me and my dad went to make a payment on my tuition and I said .. that link wasn't there before.. It was really funny because I started screaming and it was in his work office and then I went downstairs where my friend Mary, who is going to argentina for a year with afs, works and I told her and she freaked out! We danced around the store where she works and all the tourists looked at us like we were freaks :P but it's okay, because I'm going to MILANO! Words cannot even express how excited I am. I have been talking to Francesca on facebook and Alessandra over email and they sound SO nice and I can't wait to meet them and I think we're going to get along great! I am also getting my visa done... I think it is a lot easier for people that live in Alaska because we just fill out a bunch of paper work, send it to AFS, and they go get the actual visa for us. I would have to fly to San Fransisco to get it myself so I am very grateful they do this. Other than that I have just been working and reading blogs, and looking up EVERYTHING about Milan that I can possibly find on the internet and it is awesome. I can't wait to leave and I only have 71 days left! I hope it goes quickly!!!
My name is Katie Riley, and I live in a small town in Alaska called Sitka. Sitka is on an island, we have 17 miles of road, 8500 people, and the only way to get here is by air or sea. Needless to say, I am a bit of a travel addict. I want to go on AFS because I love experiencing new cultures and ideas and learning new languages. I am very excited about learning a new language, and I hope to travel to Italy this fall. From this experience, I hope to gain a higher appreciation and understanding of a new culture, and also to have the time of my life. I don't think anything would be more refreshing than leaving home for a year and traveling abroad, and thus returning a more educated and valuable person. In return to AFS, I will keep this blog going to inform everyone of my adventures while I am away, and I also hope to present some of the things I learned while away when I return.
My family and friends have been very supportive of my descion to become an AFSer... I must say that my family has been a little more supportive, while my friends kind of want me to stay. I will keep in touch with everyone hopefully, and see how school goes when I am gone. I can't wait to share my experiences overseas with my friends back home :).
My biggest challenge on my way to becoming an AFSer was PROCRASTINATION! I had so much paperwork to do if I wanted to be accepted and I would procrastinate getting it done like no other, but I really wanted this so I got all of it done as quickly as I could in hopes that I would get the country I dreamed of. Another barrier I have yet to over come is how to pay for my trip... I got a great scholarship ($800) from a donor that I would like to just say; thank you immensely! This was such a help. I will also be working all summer to help pay for my trip, but I know that it will be worth it. The only other challenge I can think of is not getting to see my friends, some of my closest pals are seniors and I will be missing their graduations; but I know I will make new friends and keep contact with the old :).
To contribute to my fundraising efforts I have applied (and recieved!) a scholarship, and I will be working this summer to contribute to my funds also. I hope to have some sort of fundraiser at sme point, but there is another couple girls in my town going on AFS and we might do a conjoining fundraiser! I think that it would be really beneficial and a lot of fun. Beyond that, thaks for reading my blog and I hope you continue to as I venture on the experience of my life! Peace!